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Two Scouts join a community effort to provide a safe harbor for children who have been sexually abused
Date published: 3/16/2009
By CATHY DYSON
Two Boy Scouts are part of a community effort to make a horrible experience a little less traumatizing for a child.
Paul Williams and Thomas Bowen are James Monroe High School students and members of Boy Scout Troop 165 in Fredericksburg.
For their Eagle Scout projects, the 17-year-olds helped paint and furnish rooms in the Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center.
That's a new facility in Massaponax, where sexually abused children will be examined in a child-friendly environment.
Instead of having to recount their abuse over and over to investigators and prosecutors, the children will tell their stories only once, to a trained interviewer.
Others professionals will be in an adjoining room and watch through closed-circuit television. If they have questions of the child, they can ask the interviewer--who'll wear an earphone.
When the children aren't being examined or interviewed, they'll be able to read books or play video games in the rooms the Scouts designed.
Paul and Thomas heard about the center from their mothers, Angela Williams and Teri McNally, who work with the Community Foundation of the Rappahannock River Region.
The Scouts didn't know much about a child advocacy center, but it didn't take them long to learn.
"They did their homework," said Gail Perkins, a forensics nurse who will examine abused children. "They did a lot of studying, and they asked a lot of questions."
The young men visited a similar center in Richmond and asked workers what equipment or materials they recommended.
At the top of the list was anatomically correct dolls. When children can't find the words to tell what happened, they use the dolls, Paul's mother said.
So, the Scouts wrote and won a $2,427 grant to buy the dolls, which come in sets of two parents and a child.
Then, Paul and Thomas researched what kind of books would be appropriate for younger children. They stocked a colorful shelf with tales about a raccoon who didn't know what to do after he'd witnessed something horrible, along with a story about a child who was going to a new foster home.
Both set up wish lists on Amazon.com and asked friends, relatives and church members if they'd like to contribute.
Yesterday, the Scouts assembled tables and chairs, easels and storage units for the rooms.